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Lecture Titled "A Brief History of the Universe" Scheduled for 25 February

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12 February 2001 -- A free public lecture titled "A Brief History of the Universe" will be given at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, 25 February, in 101 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park campus by Jane Charlton, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State.  Charlton's talk is the third of six in the 2000-2001 Friedman Lecture Series, which focuses this year on "Origins in Astronomy."

With a combination of pictures, her knowledge, and vivid descriptions, Charlton plans to describe how an amazing sequence of events unfolded to create our world and all that we know.  Much of that initial action happened in an area smaller than the head of a pin.

"It all began, about 12 billion years ago, with a fiery cauldron of high-energy radiation and tiny particles of all sorts," Charlton said.  "Then there was a burst, when the particles separated from one another at speeds that are effectively greater than the speed of light.  Gradually the universe cooled and the tiny particles came together to form atoms.  Over billions of years, gravity acted to assemble galaxies, aided by an unknown but dominant part of our universe known as dark matter."

Along with the formation of galaxies, Charlton plans to focus on the generations of stars that live and die within the galaxies as well as one fairly ordinary star that holds great importance for us-the sun. Her lecture is designed as an introduction for any interested members of the public.

Charlton, who joined the Penn State faculty in 1992, regularly shares the beauty and wonder of the universe during outreach programs and with the hundreds of Penn State students she teaches each year.  Her research focuses on the formation and evolution of galaxies.  Prior to her arrival at Penn State, she conducted postdoctoral work at Cornell University and the University of Arizona.  She earned her doctoral degree in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago in 1987 and her bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics at Carnegie Mellon University in 1983.

Remaining lectures in the series-focusing on stars, planets, and life-are scheduled as follows:

-- "From Stardust to Dinosaurs to Footprints on the Moon to Stardust Again," Chris Churchill, Penn State, 11:00 a.m., Saturday, 24 March, in 101 Thomas Building.

-- "Parade of the Planets: Past, Present and Future," Chuck Higgins, Penn State, 11:00 a.m., Saturday, 28 April, in the State College High School North Auditorium.

-- "The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life," Frank Drake, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, 4:00 p.m., Saturday, 14 July, in 100 Thomas Building.

The "Origins in Astronomy" series is hosted by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and largely funded by the Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy.  Friedman is a member of the department's Board of Visitors.

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